The War Illustrated, No. 232, Vol. 10, May 10th 1946

Great Stories of the War Retold ~the interna! wall into the next, and the next, and the next. Slowly our men, fighting on every floor, on every roof, would expend their ammunition. There would be no replenishment. Vainly they would charge, collectively and individually, with butt, bayonet and often with bare fist—the ending was always the same :into the street finally, to find the two ends sealed off by four enemy tanks. It was all so ruthlessly efficient, so logically achieved. The Nazi flag fluttered from (he tall tower of the Town Hall. That meant that half the town had now fallen. The fighting concen­trated on and around The Citadel where Brigade Headquarters still desperately held out. Around the docks and near the medical- post in the railway station, over the shat­tered bridges, on the smashed lock-gates the battle went on. Every previously abandoned vehicle on the quay (and there were many) became a flaming point of resistance until the ammunition out.ran “So British I Salute You !”Until the ammunition outran The same monotonous theme !If ever banner could have been unfurled over the blazing, splendid ruins of Calais, on its scroll could truly have been written in letters of unfading blood, “We fought on until the ammuni­tion was spent.” The whole town suddenly became very quiet. We were startled by the unfamiliar silence. We wondered what it could mean. Some of our optimists started to cheer they thought we had won. It soon became known, however, that the Germans had sent an emissary, under a white flag, to ask for our surrender. That silence was very brief The inferno Hazed up again. The answer had been given. Weary as they were, everyman cheered and the rattle of rifle-firc became more defiant than ever—with anew, inspired defiance. It was magnificent, but short­ lived. Slowly, on that final Sunday morning, as the dive-bombers, at last coming into their own, screamed down onto The Citadel, the rifle-firc died down until, apart from an occasional shot, the whole town stilled into silence. Finally, even the occasional shot ceased and nothing could be heard save the crackling of inflames the sunshine, it was the end of the splendid epic that was Calais. Squads of Germans with sub-machine guns at the ready crept cautiously about, rounding-up prisoners. German Red Cross personnel helped ours to carry away the wounded of both sides. Rations of stew were served out to friend and foe alike. As evening came on all the prisoners were lined up in the big square, all so very, very weary that many slept as they stood. The Germans, equally weary, grouped around, standing or sitting, gazing curiously on this ragged, tiny remnant of an Army which had defied their efficient might so long. They gazed curiously and with grudging admiration. TpHREE German staff cars came up, and .stopped. A General stood up in the second car and gazed long and steadily at our men. In his face of granite was a softening compassion and admiration. Nobody called out an order but, unconsciously, our men and the Germans, despite their weariness, stiffened into some semblance of attention. Somebody whispered, “It’s Rommel !”Whether it was or not nobody could be sure :it didn't milter. He spoke, in stilted, halting English, “Bloody, bloody fools I ...So magnifi­cent hopeless. So British futile but still magnificent I salute you !”He gravely saluted to the front saluted to the half-right and again to the half-left and, still standing at the salute, passed out of sight as the cars moved on. Almost before he had gone the men, British and German alike, flopped down onto the hard cobbles of the square. As night drew her dark cloak about them, enemy and friend slept side by inside the uncaring abandon of utter exhaustion. The days that followed almost beggar description. Long columns of exhausted prisoners were lorced-marchcd fifteen kilo­ metres a day through French villages whose inhabitants stood silent in the streets with tragic hopelessness. Many of our men were badly wounded, but if they could stagger along at all they were made to do so. One Colours :White "Y"on Brown BRITISH 5TH DIVISION RE-FORM DinE France in October 1939, by the late Field-Marshal Lord Gort, V.C., the nucleus of the Division comprised three regular infantry brigades, and was commanded by Major-General (now Licut-Geners!) H.E. Franklyn. Destined to a globe-trotting fighting existence it became known as the “Gipsy Division.” The Division fought on two fronts in 1940, two brigades in France and one in Norway. O then Western Front two noted actions were fought which materially assisted in the successful evacuation of the B.E.F., May-June 1940. The first was in the defence of Arras (May 21) and the second along the Ypres-Com ines canal (May 27-28). In both, severe casualties were inflicted on the enemy, and sustained by the Division. The other brigade, transferred to Norway, landed at Aandalsnes (April 23-24) and repulsed heavy attacks at Kram, ICO miles away (April 25). In a second battle at Otta (April 28) it again proved its superiority. After being withdrawn the brigade rejoined the Division in England, in October 1940. CARL Yin 1942 and now commanded by Major-General H. P.M. Bcrney-Ficklin, the “Gipsies ”sailed for South Africa en route for Madagascar where two brigades, after landing on May 5, fought brilliantly and paved the way for the capture of Ant- sirano two days later. The third brigade had proceeded to India, vvhere it was later joined by the other two, and the Division moved to Persia in face of the German threat to the Caucasus. In January 1943 the Division went to Syria, trained for the invasion of Sicily and, landing south of Syracuse on July 10.1943, took the town of Syracuse by nightfall, and Paterno later. With the 8th Army the Division, under the command of Major-General C.G. Bucknall, led the assault on Italy on September 3.1943, and immediately captured Scilla. In nine months campaigning M uro was taken (Septem ber25) Lupara, after a heavy engagement on the Bifferno, in October and Forli (November 9). The Garigliano was crossed on January 18,1944, with the 5th Army, and M inturno taken two days later. Commanded by Major-General P. G.S. Gregson-Ellis the Division became part of the bridge-head force at Anzio from March 1944, subse- qcntly crossed the Moletta river and ad­vanced until the fall of Rom eon June 4,1944. In this last phase Sgt. WM. .Rogers (2nd Wilts) earned a posthumous V.C. (portrait in page 376. Vol. 8). AFTER refitting in Palestine the Division, now commanded by Major-General R.A. Hull, reappeared on the Western Front (April 1945) and assisted in driving .the Germans across the Elbe and entered Lubcck. By VE Day the Division had com­pleted a trek of 30,000 miles and won for itself a glorious reputation by its doggedness and fighting qualities. PAGE 3 6 major, in particular, with rough bandaging around bleeding hole in his back, limped along in a delirium of agony through all the never-ending hours of a stifling day until the angry, blasphemous protestations of our own men—risking being shot invoicing them—finally forced the Germans to send transport next day he and others like him were taken on ahead. The rest staggered on, footsore, and frantic with thirst, yet not permitted to stop for a gulp of cold water proffered by the pitying wayside peasants. the third day it rained a little and eased the agony. Our men put on their gas-capcs. The Germans were intrigued by these and gleefully took them. In fairness to the enemy let it be said that the treatment by these front-line fighting troops, though rough, was humane, and the meagre rations of soup doled put to our men were exactly of the same quality and quantity as. their own. It was later, on the fourth or fifth day, when they were handed-over to the base- personnel, that our men felt the full harsh­ness of bitter and gloating enmity. The first night after this handing-over some of our men were comfortably housed in a brickworks too comfortably !In the middle of the night the Commander of the Guard had them turned out and they were made to sleep in the storehouse on pyramids of brick. They lay, as best they could, on the sloping sides. If they slid down they were booted back by the guards if they protested they were prodded with loaded rifles or banged with the butts. Finally, in some wayside railway station in Belgium, they were loaded into open cattle- trucks—crammed so tightly that it was impossible for them to sit or lie down. The next four days of the journey through Belgium and Germany into Poland were spent standing, all day, in blazing heat and at night, by contrast, in -bitter cold. The nightmare journey at last ended and they were drafted off into the different forts in Poland that were to be their prison-camps. Here the conditions were appalling. After a few weeks of this, when everybody was crawling with lice and bitten by bugs, our doctors firmly protested to the Camp Commandants, only to be blandly told that it was not worthwhile making any serious attempt to change the conditions as the War would soon be over now and our men repatriated !It was only when England refused to give in and the War looked like ongoing for sometime longer that the Germans got down to the problem of the prison-camps and made areal job of it. To Await the Moment of Escape Not all our men arrived in Poland.• A few died on the way, but many more, not caring to spend the rest of the War in cap­tivity, slipped out of the as they passed through some familiar French\ illage. There they sank into the background of peasant-life to await the moment of escape. One officer found a French farm intact, complete with cattle, pigs and poultry, and donning the clothes left behind by the hurriedly departed farmer he calmly ran the farm for threesome months. He even supplied the German Officers’ Mess across the way with buttermilk, and eggs. At last, being “tipped off” that the Germans were beginning to suspect his true identity, he left The farm cadged lifts on German military lorries to Cherbourg, and there, helped by friendly fishermen, finally got a boat across to England :to receive a Military Cross. In ishim typified the real spirit of the epic that was Calais and of men who fought, refusing to be daunted and even when defeated remained unconquer­able in souls-their
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